In Berlin Abdulbaset Sieda, the President of the Syrian National Council, and Riad Seif, a member of the SNC, spoke to German MPs, and representatives of various federal authorities and selected think tanks. In the discussion the two speakers asked the international community to give robust support to the Syrian opposition.
Abdulbaset Sieda, who lives in exile, supports the establishment of a democratic system in Syria. Riad Seif was elected to the Syrian parliament as an independent, and in 2000-2001 was one of the principal initiators of the Damascus Spring. He was arrested as a result of his political activities, and spent more than eight years in prison in Syria.
The two speakers are currently taking an active part in the development of a stable political order after the end of the Assad regime. On the evening preceding the Background Discussion they took part in intensive negotiations with the Friends of Syria Economic Recovery and Development Group, which was set up by Germany and the United Arab Emirates. It invited delegates from 60 states and representatives of the Syrian opposition to participate in its second meeting in Berlin.
“We need a no-fly zone”
In their short opening statements and in the ensuing discussion the speakers both stated that they considered the implementation of a no-fly zone to be of crucial importance for the protection of Syrian civilians. The regime was using heavy weapons in its struggle against the opposition movement. Assad could be stopped only if the international community provided much-needed diplomatic and material support.
Sieda emphasized that the Syrian opposition, even though it was still disunited, shared a common vision of a free Syria. The movement was not driven by a wish for greater material prosperity, but was an uprising by the Syrian people, striving for freedom and dignity.
“Without Russian support the Assad regime would collapse within a matter of days.”
The European states had to persuade Russia to adopt a joint Security Council resolution. International legitimacy was absolutely necessary in the struggle against the current Syrian leadership. Military action that did not have the backing of a UN mandate was less likely to be successful. However, if the Syrian opposition were compelled to continue with the struggle on its own, this would have a destabilizing effect on the entire region, and a very negative effect on international security for a long time to come.
The participants of the Background Discussion saw that there was an urgent need to plan ahead for the post-Assad period, even though it is not quite clear how the “day after” is going to be reached.
Körber Foundation regularly invites a small circle of high-ranking actors within Berlin’s foreign policy community to its Political Background Discussions. As in the Bergedorf Round Tables, the discussions take place shielded from the public, so as to enable a confidential, frank, and constructive exchange.